This is part two of the garden troubleshooting questions. Depending on the response I may continue to do this every month. Even those of us who have gardened for years seem to find ourselves stumped every now and then. I've always believed one can never have too much gardening knowledge.

My tomato plant is not forming new tomatoes, what can I do?

Humid, hot weather can keep the fruit of the tomato plant from setting. Mother Nature can be rather finicky in the best of circumstances, so during a heat wave she may need a little help. Gently shaking the tomato plants during the middle of day will help release the pollen from the blossoms.

The University of California Extension Office explains:
"When daytime temperatures consistently exceed 90 F, fruit set failure may also be expected in many tomato varieties. Some varieties are more tolerant of high temperatures and will continue to set fruit when others fall. Under these conditions, it will be helpful to keep the plants in a healthy growing condition so that flowers which develop will have a better chance to survive. This includes the maintenance of a constant moisture supply, the elimination of damaging insects, and the control of diseases. Fruitsetting hormones are not effective in hot weather."

Besides gently shaking the tomato plants, gardeners should make sure the plants are watered on a schedule so the soil doesn't dry out. On days over 90 degrees this can happen sooner than one thinks. When fertilizers are used they should be specifically for vegetables, not houseplants or flowers. Too much of one nutrient, such as nitrogen, can cause problems with the fruit not setting as well, so use a good organic fertilizer
made for vegetables.

We have a firepit and generate quite a lot of wood ash. Can we compost the ashes?

You certainly can, as long as the wood was untreated. Wood ashes can be composted and used in the garden to sweeten the soil, much like lime. It's been used as a soil amendment since Roman times. Add it to the compost pile
with no worries. It can be gently raked evenly into the garden soil around plants, as well. Split your ashes between the compost and the garden soil.

Wood ashes can be use to deter cut worms by forming a ring around seedlings. They also tend to repel snails and slugs, but only until the ashes become soaked from a good rain, then they have to be replaced. Hardword ashes tend to have more nutrients than softwood, but all wood ashes will benefit the soil and plants.

Don't work wood ashes into the soil where potatoes will be grown, or are currently growing. Also, don't apply it right after sowing seeds because the ash could affect germination.

I'm worried about my squash and pumpkins sitting directly on the ground. Is there something I should be doing for them?

A simple way to cushion the pumpkins or large squash
is to place a bed of straw or hay underneath the vegetable as it nears harvest time. Some gardeners use boards with success as well or terra cotta trays placed upside down under the squash. You can also carefully rotate the pumpkins or squash so one side is not down all the time. Be very careful attempting this so the stem doesn't weaken or break. I personally like the straw option for a simple, low cost solution.